We recently hosted an event at St. Luke’s where Marsha and I shared the stage with our adult children, Paul and Kelly. It was such a fun night, sharing our family stories! The idea for this event was in response to the growing need to help families navigate the challenges they face today including social media and bullying, just to name a few! It was also inspired by the requests Marsha and I receive about sharing tips and secrets for raising children in a loving, Christian home. And while, the world has changed dramatically since our children were at home, the values never go out of style!
As you read through these three things, please know that I am not claiming to have a perfect family! I never want to give off that kind of idea. Parents are bombarded, today, with pressure to be impossibly perfect and that is not what this is about! Instead, it is an honest look at three of the things we did with our children that can get BIG results!
#1: TAKE YOUR KIDS TO WORSHIP
Study after study has shown that if children never go to worship and only attend Sunday School, that when they become adults they don’t go to church. There is something important about worshiping together as a family. It doesn’t have to happen every Sunday, but it needs to happen on a regular basis so you can worship as a family. Studies show if you don’t, your children will not likely attend church on their own. The same is true for grandkids. I cannot encourage you enough moms, dads and grandparents, let your grandchildren and children come to worship with you. It will make a difference.
#2 BE PRESENT EVEN WHEN IT’S NOT CONVENIENT
Another thing Marsha and I did to help our children grow in their faith was being present for them. So often, our daughter Kelly would come in late at night and that’s when she’d want to talk! If I could have scheduled these meaningful talks, life would have been much easier, but that’s not how it happens! Be present and available; not on your convenience, but when you sense that your child or grandchild wants to talk. When you make yourself available and are willing to seize these moments to listen, that’s when they share and you grow close. It’s when you’re able to impart your sense of values to them because in that moment, they are choosing to engage with you. Marsha and I look back, laughing on our failed attempts to create a special moment to help them understand our values because trying to create these moments never worked for us! THEY will determine when those moments are going to take place. The critical thing for us was to be willing to put aside our agenda to be present. Sometimes that meant sitting up or getting out of bed when we were exhausted because they wanted to talk or missing a football game that I really wanted to see! Marsha and I both had parents who did that for us and we wanted that for our children. I can’t encourage you enough to be the people who listen, not when it’s convenient, but when they want to talk.
#3: END THE BEDTIME STRUGGLE (Bonus: build your child’s self-esteem)
There was a point when we had young children, that we dreaded nighttime! Parents- do you know what I’m talking about? When everyone is tired, fighting with each other and not listening, it can really push your buttons! I found myself getting upset and they were getting upset and we were all going to bed unhappy! Marsha and I decided something had to change. We made the decision that each night, even if we’d been going head to head, we would have one-on-one prayer time with our children. It gave us a chance to talk about the day, make up if we needed to and then we would pray together. Prayer time at night became what I believe to be one of the most important times for us as a family and it did more to help our children’s self-esteem and create a relationship with God and us, than anything else we did.
I wanted my children to feel loved, so each night during this special time, I remember telling them, “You know I am the luckiest daddy in the world. Do you know why?” In the beginning they would respond with, “No, why?” I would say, “Because I have you! That is why I’m the luckiest daddy in the world!” It didn’t take too long for them to respond to the question with, “I know why! Because you have me!” Even if we’d been arguing minutes before, this showed the children that our love is greater than any struggle we go through. Showing our children what it means to be loved by us and also what it means to be loved by God is such a gift. Our tradition of ending the night in a good place went on for years and is remembered as a special and holy time for us as a family. Parents and grandparents, give it a try! Let the children in your life know that you’re the luckiest parent / grandparent in the world because you have them. It helps our children to know they are loved no matter what. This does something wonderful for a child’s self esteem!
And lastly, St. Luke’s has committed to providing resources and tools to help families. One of the many resources we have created to provide inspiration as well as practical tips to help you and your family, is a Faith & Family blog. You can read the first post here. Our homes are the best opportunity for character and faith formation of children! In a positive, loving and Godly home, children can find their worth, learn values to live by, and carry on a faith that makes a difference!